How to become a Perfusionist

Posted on August 10, 2021

For anyone seeking a challenging and rewarding career in healthcare, you might be thinking about how to become a perfusionist. Across the country, the perfusionist job market is quite healthy. 

Some experts calculate an estimated shortfall of 200–250 perfusionists per year based on the number of certified perfusionists reaching retirement age over the next several years. This bodes well for both job opportunities and salaries for future perfusionists.

Let’s take a deeper look at what it takes to become a perfusionist.  

Do you have what it takes to become a perfusionist?

Before deciding to embark on a perfusionist career path, you’ll want to know what you are getting into. For starters, perfusionists work in highly demanding clinical scenarios, such as open-heart surgery or with critically ill patients. Perfusionists work with specialized equipment, such as heart-lung machines, which help keep patients alive when their heart and lungs cannot support life on their own.

Perfusionists are technical and science-oriented people. Beyond working with advanced medical equipment, the job requires in-depth knowledge about human physiology, blood parameters, and the nuances of surgery and illness as they pertain to perfusion. 

It takes plenty of mental and physical stamina to work alongside surgeons during lengthy operations. If you thrive and remain poised during challenging, critical situations, then perfusion might be perfect for you.  

Getting into perfusionist school

Although perfusion school entrance requirements may vary, eligible candidates usually have one or more of the following:

  • Bachelor of Science degree
  • Experience as a registered nurse (RN) or respiratory therapist (RRT) or other healthcare practitioner
  • Experience working in a hospital environment
  • B.S. degree with courses completed in anatomy, algebra, calculus, physiology, physics, and chemistry

Perfusion school

Once you apply to and are accepted to a perfusion school, the journey to becoming a perfusionist truly begins. The coursework is rigorous, and you will get hands-on clinical experience l working alongside an experienced perfusionist. 

The typical perfusion school curriculum includes health-related science courses such as hematology, physiology, and pharmacology. More specific classes might include perfusion theory and critical care. Many programs also encourage students to participate in research projects while they earn their degrees. Some schools even have perfusion simulation labs to help you get accustomed to handling the equipment and navigating clinical scenarios.

In most cases, it takes two years at an accredited school to satisfy the requirements for a Master’s degree in perfusion. 

Perfusionist accreditation

After graduating from perfusionist school, you then move on to the accreditation process. This includes passing the Perfusion Basic Science Examination (PBSE) and the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Examination (CAPE) to earn the Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) credential. Furthermore, candidates must complete at least 75 perfusion cases post-graduation, with a minimum of 40 independent cases, before sitting for the exams.

During their career, perfusionists must also complete continuing education requirements. To maintain credentials, perfusionists must submit proof of ongoing education credits to the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion (ABCP).

Learn how CCS teams up with LTU to offer one of the country’s most advanced Master of Science in Cardiovascular Perfusion (MSCVP) programs.

Article references:

Results of the 2015 Perfusionist Salary Study

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